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Rethinking North America: Why NAFTA’s Laissez Faire Approach to Integration Is Flawed, and What to Do About It

41 Pages Posted: 28 Feb 2012  

Stephen T. Zamora

University of Houston Law Center

Date Written: 2011


The creation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) launched a new era of North American relations, an era in which the Canadian, Mexican and U.S. economies have become more closely integrated due to the rise in cross-border trade and investment in North America. Increased economic integration has also generated economic and social problems, with issues arising out of the migration of undocumented workers, negative environmental effects, increases in economic inequality and social unrest, and national security concerns. These concerns are not being addressed in a systematic, proactive manner, however, because NAFTA is a severely limited partnership. The governments of Canada, Mexico and the United States have resisted the opportunity to create mechanisms – in particular, effective trilateral institutions – to address trilateral issues in a proactive, concerted effort involving NAFTA’s governments. This article analyzes NAFTA’s “headless” approach to integration, resulting in the ad hoc, temporary and bilateral settlement of cross-border issues as they arise, to the detriment of sustainable growth of the North American economy. With little likelihood in the near future that the NAFTA governments will alter this approach, the article explores alternative mechanisms for improving North American relations, including the formation of trilateral networks of governmental and quasi-governmental officials, and the promotion of civil society initiatives involving NGOs, universities, and other non-governmental actors.

Keywords: International trade, NAFTA, North America, North American integration, Supranational institutions, Transgovernmental networks, Disaggregation, Disaggregated states, Civil society initiatives, Regional trade cooperation, NAFTA supplemental agreements

Suggested Citation

Zamora, Stephen T., Rethinking North America: Why NAFTA’s Laissez Faire Approach to Integration Is Flawed, and What to Do About It (2011). Villanova Law Review, Vol. 56, p. 631, 2011; U of Houston Law Center No. 2012-A-5. Available at SSRN:

Stephen T. Zamora (Contact Author)

University of Houston Law Center ( email )

4604 Calhoun Road
Houston, TX 77204-6060
United States

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